ANTIGONE CONTEMPLATES HER CHOICES AT 4:23 AM
by Jennifer Franklin
Let’s go back to the first choice.
The one that married me
to suffering and sleep deprivation.
Go back to the hospital bed
where I lay—tubes wrapped
around me as if I were a gift.
Return to the moment a psychiatrist
was sent to stand above my bed
like a sentry because I wanted to end
the life inside me to stop my incessant
vomiting. Let’s go back to the moment
my mother convinced me to put myself
last as mothers have been doing
to daughters for millennia. To her eyes
as they watched me sign my release
papers. Let’s return to the silent drive
to the new house she bought for me
and my new husband and unpacked
her suitcase to nurse me for thirteen weeks
and make sure I didn’t slink back
to the hospital in an ambulance
and end it all the way I wanted to. Let’s
return to that room where I could have
stood up to her and said she was not
the one being ravaged by illness,
not the one who lost thirty-five pounds.
That she would not have to raise the child
if something went wrong. Go back
to the disinfectant, the cornflower blue
gowns. The nurses pricking my hands
with needles. Go back to the moment
before I would always be controlled
by my mother, by my daughter. Go back.
Go back. Go back. Now that I love her
there is no way out, not even a noose
around my neck.
About the Author
Jennifer Franklin (AB Brown University, MFA Columbia University School of the Arts) is the author of two full collections, most recently No Small Gift (Four Way Books, 2018). Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Blackbird, Boston Review, New England Review, Gettysburg Review, Guernica, JAMA, Love’s Executive Order, The Nation, Paris Review, Plume, “poem-a-day” on poets.org, and Prairie Schooner. She currently teaches in the Manhattanville MFA program. For the past seven years, she has taught manuscript revision at the Hudson Valley Writers Center, where she serves as Program Director and co-edits Slapering Hol Press. She lives in New York City.